Why the Youth Vote is Ours to Win

By Jedediah Bila

I recently found myself in a discussion about America’s youth with a small group of conservative activists. They were in unanimous agreement that conservatism and libertarianism will never be “cool,” that young people just don’t relate to the conservative or libertarian message, that no amount of outreach could be successful, and that we have to just face it–liberalism appeals to young people and eventually they’ll grow out of it and see the light.

I couldn’t disagree more on every level. The good news? They’re wrong.

As a former teacher, student adviser, dean, and private tutor, I have had the pleasure of working with students of virtually all ages. I have taught Improv and Spanish language and literature, been a monologue coach, and tutored everything from writing instruction to Spanish to Algebra. I know kids. I know teenagers and young adults. And I understand how young minds work.

The vast majority of young people I have had the pleasure of working with value similar things.

They love their independence. They dream of the day when they will be completely free to make their own decisions.

They’re not too fond of being told what to wear, how to style their hair, or even what kind of folders and pens to buy. Creative expression and the freedom of choice inherent in it are very important to them.

They will work hard at something they love doing. Whether it’s mastering the violin, winning a sports trophy, creating their very own computer game, or writing their first of many poems, they are driven by the desire to be successful at what they love.

They dream big. They’re not afraid to tell their first-grade teachers that they want to be astronauts, write middle school essays about how they’ll run for president, share their high school hopes to be the next Audrey Hepburn, or let their college professors know that they intend to find a cure for cancer. If you call them unrealistic, they won’t be afraid to call you a coward.

They also love to be entertained. Sure, they can absorb information and even get good grades when they’re bored. But when they are entertained, when good teachers make learning fun and exciting, when visual aids are thrown in, when film and TV elements come into play, when they act out scenes in order to learn a language rather than read the words off a page–it is then that they come alive. That’s when they really get what you’re saying and hold onto it.

So, why is this all important?

Revisit the traits I have outlined above–loving one’s independence and the idea of making one’s own decisions, dreaming big, freedom of choice–that’s all the opposite of liberalism.

Young people aren’t naturally drawn to liberalism. They have simply been told that the word “liberal” is a good thing, a “cool” thing, a “young” thing, a “hip” thing, and a “trendy” thing. They have been told that conservatism is an “old” thing, a “boring” thing, an “out of touch” thing, and a thing “of the past.” And kids are all about looking to the future.

Where have they been told these things? Well, we know the role that left-wing academia plays in all this. But there’s actually a much bigger force in play, a force that has entertained young people and hence held their interest–pop culture, music, awards shows, and reality television. There’s a reason that the Obama team ran a Sarah Jessica Parker pro-Obama ad during the MTV Movie Awards. They’re not stupid. They want kids remembering who the “cool” President is.

For a very long time, conservatives and libertarians have allowed the Left to own the narrative. The Left has told America’s youth who we are and what we stand for, and they have utilized mediums kids love and relate to in order to seal that falsehood. That’s why the message sticks.

And what have we done? Almost nothing. We have sat on the sidelines and said, “Well, this is what young people do. They’ll grow out of it.”

Unacceptable. Because guess what? Lots of young people don’t grow out of it. They turn into adults who have misconceptions about who we are and what we value. They grow up thinking that the Left is their ally, when in fact it’s the Left who is trying to tell them what to eat, what to buy, how to manage their health, and how much money is too much to earn–all the things they were once instinctively inclined to hate.

The groupthink and collectivism of the Left is the natural enemy of our youth’s visceral passion for independence, creativity, and success.

So, I reject that conservatism and libertarianism will never be “cool.” I reject that young people just don’t relate to those messages. I reject that no amount of outreach could be successful. And I reject that we have to face that liberalism appeals to young people and eventually they’ll grow out of it and see the light.

Those are cop outs. And they’re simply not true.

Overtaking the narrative requires effort. It requires thinking outside the box. And it requires a willingness to understand how young minds work and a desire to enter their world with your message. I promise you that their instincts are already on our side.

Now let’s get to it.

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9 years ago

Couldn’t agree more. Our schools have been infiltrated by liberals who were brainwashed in our universities and never understood that they have been had. Talking to a liberal is like talking to a 13 year old child. No matter what the facts are and how implausible their emotional attachment to a concept is, they stick with what they “feel”. My exchange student daughter was in a skit about Columbine. Her liberal teacher had deviated far afield from the facts. I gave her some word search phrases and had her research the events herself. She used my phrases and some of her own and arrived at a more factual picture of the events. She came back to me with further questions and dug some more. Smart kid. I told her that she should never buy into anything without looking into it herself. Being skeptical is a survival skill.

Yep, let the kids find out they are being led down a path to the liberals future and they will be in revolt.

9 years ago

Go girl go!

9 years ago

When the Socialist were allowed to seize the education system of our country (by design for long term results), we got behind the curve with the young people. Even when I was in school, had my father not contradicted the information I was being fed about a great world where everyone got everything they needed due to central planning, I would have joined the group of people now giving away the entire Country.

9 years ago

The youth in my family care very much for conservative values. As a matter of fact, it really surprised me to know that my son, who’s liberal, would have voted for Ron Paul. My daughter, who is a conservative, would also have voted for Ron Paul if he’d been the nominee. We don’t give our kids credit enough for actually having a thinking mind.

Glenn Shannon
9 years ago
Reply to  PMA

PMA your family is a rarity not the norm. Look at articles, if it is on something Brittney Spears does there are hundreds of comments. On serious matters of life there end up being very few comments. Even here look at how few comments are being posted.

Glenn Shannon
9 years ago

Biggest trouble is there is a big difference through the years of freedom. The kids of today don’t see all the freedoms that have been taken away verses someone like me born in 1940. So as generations go forward the few freedoms of today compared to years ago are not recognized. If you don’t understand how much has been lost then it is impossible to understand having lost any freedoms. So as we go forward and lose a few more freedoms it is like they say about a frog. If you put a frog in a pan of cold water and slowly turn up the heat he will cook to death and not try to escape. If you try and put a frog into boiling water he will immediately try to escape. The liberals have been slowly turning up the heat on that pan of water and slowly cooking us to death with few people understanding what is going on.

9 years ago
Reply to  Glenn Shannon

You’ve got it brother.

I’m in your age group.

I couldn’t have said it better myself

Dan Starr
9 years ago

As an instructor like yourself (I am a private keyboard instructor of 24+ years of experience) I taught folks of all ages. I completely agree that young people are natural libertarians. In fact, back when I was into politics, one of the campaigns I ran had mostly teens as volunteers. I’d go to their homes, play with them, and then work with them. They worked hard on the things that were important to them – just as you said. The problem I’ve found is that few ever ask. Sure, maybe as adults we have different importances but so what?

james johnson
9 years ago

I love your thinking,and love seing you on my shows.The youth,(and the Hispanic) needs to be made aware of the oppressive lives lived in countries where obamas aspirations are already being carried out.Venezuela,Cuba:These are places to cannot leave;you have to escape them.A detailed history of the lead up to WWII,would be a good start.
Then,they must be shown that the “green “movement is in fact,not really about the ecology.It is about global governance through the redistribution of the United States money.The UN and NATO need to be outed too.

9 years ago
Reply to  james johnson

True, good points all.

Don Belanger
9 years ago

I find the conservative argument that we need more freedom a bit silly at times. You’re willing to sell your souls to
billionaire backed candidates at the polls, you don’t put up a fuss about the Patriot Act (a very UN-patriotic act), you cdry for religous freedom (as long as its “Christian”) and you’re willing to tell womenh what they can do with their bodies. On the last point, you want to make abortions almost impossible to get (even if a 12 year old girl was raped, or in cases of incest etc.). Then to round it out, if you don’t want abortions–you don’t want women to have access to contraception either–make up your addle patted minds!

As far as young people are concerned–they need to know that the benefits their parents enjoy from social movements, labor movements (those big bad unions etc.) gave us the 5 day, 40-hour work week, health benefits for the worker and his family, and clean decent working conditions at a living wage.

Don’t short change them on the whole story please…….

9 years ago
Reply to  Don Belanger

You’re wrong on all acounts.

First, both candidates are backed by billionaires. Are you the self appointed pretender who proclaims that Americans lose their franchise once they achieve a certain measure of success?

Second, few of us support the Patriot Act as currently written. It’s clearly overkill. You lefties like it because it allows more intrusion into our lives, which is your aim: control.

Third, women can abuse their bodies all they want but when they’re carrying an innocent child who has no say in the matter, they’re not allowed to murder it. Your argument about a rape victim and birth control is specious at best.

Finally, I worked in a shop where a 5-1/2 day workweek was the norm in the late 60s. It was a non-union shop and there was never any question that any of us would join a union. Nonetheless, the company unilaterally decided to switch to a 5 day workweek and increase our hourly pay to make up the difference. No stinking unions involved.

9 years ago
Reply to  FlaJim

Yikes, sorry about that. Here is the function:function cac_forum_reply_url( $topic_permalink = false, $topic_page = false, $num = false ) {global $topic_template;$url = empty( $topic_permalink ) ? bp_get_the_topic_permalink() : $topic_permalink;if ( empty( $url ) ) {return false;}if ( empty( $topic_page ) !empty( $topic_template->pag->total_pages ) ) {$topic_page = $topic_template->pag->total_pages;}if ( empty( $num ) !empty( $topic_template->pag->pag_num ) ) {$num = $topic_template->pag->pag_num;}$url = add_query_arg( ‘topic_page’, $topic_page, $url );$url = add_query_arg( ‘num’, $num, $url );$url .= ‘#leave-a-reply’;return $url;}

Glenn Shannon
9 years ago
Reply to  Don Belanger

The union ideal at the start was a good thought, problem was the criminal element quickly took over. If the people really backed unions why do so many states force people to be in the union with no choice. I was in the UAW back in the late 50s and only the guys who were buddies or drank with them got decent representation. Most of the buddies and drinkers deserved to get fired. You can also look at Arizona where they stayed on strike so long they closed the copper mines. Boy that was really a winner for the working people!!

9 years ago
Reply to  Don Belanger

Yep, and see what the unions have wrought! Bankruptcy of entire communities. None of my grown children work 40 hours but more like 50-60, just like my husband and myself before we retired, he at 72 and I at 74. You can have your unions. The only people I know who work 40 hour weeks and less are employees in the public sector.

There is a reason why immigrants from Asia, for example Korea or India, manage to make a living almost immediately as they arrive here; they don’t mind taking any menial job or two and work 60 hour weeks. Within a relatively short time they become successful, own their own small business and such.

As for abortions, this should not be a political issue. Let those who want to have abortions have them, it is their business, but I don’t want to pay for it.

9 years ago
Reply to  swissik

Johan Liljegren November 13, 2007 Jeff,Great to get some new blog tips! However, the link to Matt Evans’ The Admin Exchange is most likely increorct, as it is the same as the one to Salesforce Times.My Google karma doesn’t give me any tips on where to find it either. Do you have an updated link to it?Regards//Johan

9 years ago
Reply to  Abdallh

Brian Posted on I like MacBook computers very much, there are nuoumres great features presented by them. I agree with the fact that investing money in developing the CPU in the case of such devices was a very good idea, an idea that was necessary and which enabled them to design products that were considered much more developed than other similar products that had been previously released on the market

9 years ago
Reply to  Don Belanger

Nykhaa’l May 14, 2010 Hey.. I do wished that no.3 was not non-negotiable (i watned to drop that one) but since its not, id go for no.1. Pahiyas is celebrated yearly, so next year, you could still go with you office mates (if no one from your group resigns, hehe..) The other 2 (nos. 2 & 4) for me are non-negotiable, coz the fact that it will be your first time to be with Mimay again, and that the other one is BOHOL .. nobody drops a trip to Bohol (aside from its for free)

Breaking the Law
9 years ago

A wonderful read. I find myself agreeing with everything…until I think about reality.

The reality is that Republicans often don’t stand for liberty or independence.

More kids than not probably support decriminalization of soft drugs, for example. The current Republican candiate for president says he doesn’t even support it for terminal patients. Democrats are usually the ones pushing for decriminalization.

More kids than not probably support gay marriage. You have one incumbent president who now supports it. You have a candidate who campaigns against it. Similar at the local level.

And while things like environmental policy may not have anything to do with liberty or independence, this kind of stuff often attracts today’s youth. Republicans often are against many environmental regulations, Democrats support them.

As for the tea party, the progressive PR machine dishonestly messaged that it was racist. For many kids today, racism is about as bad as you can get.

The groupthink thing? I have to say that from my limited experience with kids, they tend to want to go with the group. Even rebels do what their rebel cliques do. Only in maturity, in my opinion, do people outgrow groupthink.

Then you have Hollywood. Conservatives are depicted as old-fashioned. Liberals are depicted as hip.

Conservatives and libertarians have a long way to go before they get the youth vote. If I were 18 when McCain ran against Obama, I probably would not have voted for McCain. An old man and a seemingly manufactured cult of personality in Palin vs. the (seemingly) cool and (seemingly) debonaire Obama.

Getting youths on the side of conservatism or libertarianism won’t happen until the Republican Party purges itself of Good Old Boys, Bible thumpers and drug warriors…and actually start standing for liberty and independence party-wide.

Tom Boyce
9 years ago

Fully agree with your premise that Conservatives and Libertarians are not getting the proper message to our youth. It is very difficult to overcome the propaganda elicited by the Liberal Left on an hourly basis through the medium of academia. Your proposal that we sidestep academia and connect with our youth through such avenues as pop-culture, awards’ shows, music and reality television shows are grounded in wishful thinking, because the very Liberal Left also control those mediums, as well.

What good are those avenues when Lee Greenwood’s, [I’m Proud to be an American] is censored? No, alternative media is our only solution to getting our message out to our youth. Especially through the internet.

Has anyone developed a useful smartphone app, yet, highlighting the oppressiveness of the taxation which will consume the pocketbook and wallets of our youth come January 2014?

However, I truly like the way you think outside the box. Excellent article.

Tom Boyce
Barre, VT

9 years ago

You’re neglecting the dissonance between what the Republican party wants (the youth vote) and what they will actually do to secure it (nothing). Ron Paul was the closest any Republican has come to having the youth vote and he took Iowa and New Hampshire’s youth vote by storm because his overall personality and message was easily received to youth voters. Mitt Romney doesn’t have a youthful appearance (with his whole campaign), he doesn’t offer anything abstract and pure for youth voters to go for– thus he is barely noticed. Youth voters want something different, they want to feel special and counter cultural. Unless you can give them that while having them blend into the crowd of voting for Romney, whose most counter cultural action was to give that sweaty interview last month for Times, you’re out of luck!

Bret Ziel
9 years ago

You are right on the money once again Jedediah! I believe if more people on the right would listen to you and take action like you recommend today, and stop being afraid of being called names by the lame stream media, and the left, we can and will reclaim our country, by starting with our future, our KIDS! We need to stop throwing in the towel before the fight begins to unions like the NEA and others, and reclaim our principles from the left, and show that we have the backbone to do what is RIGHT!

Russ Robles
9 years ago

Always insightful, JB!

9 years ago
Reply to  Russ Robles

Hi, Does anyone know of a way of chnngiag the way that emails look in your inbox so that you can see at a glance if they have been replied to without opening them to see if there is the text you replied on xxxx’ ? I’m looking for a simple way of telling when an email hasnt been replied to without having to do anything so the ideal way would be for all emails that have been given a reply to change colour in the inbox so its clear which emails have and havent been replied to. Any ideas anyone? Maybe an add on? We are an internet retailer and get hundreds of emails per day at times so i want an idiot proof way of missing an email to reply to. We use outlook 2007 at the moment.

9 years ago

Excellent, Jedediah. Any projects planned?

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